An unforgettable experience—the making of a winner

I took basic combat training from April 26 to June 20, 1974 at the worst place a recruit could be sent at that time—Fort Polk, La. I was in E-1-2 on main post. My drill sergeants were Sgt. 1st Class Magee, Staff Sgt. Davis and Sgt. Thomas. They were pure bullies, and at 17 years and 3 months of age, I was the second youngest recruit in a company of over 180 recruits.

I remember the bullying drill instructors did at that time, which was digging holes 6 feet wide and 6 feet deep. The challenges to meet the drill instructors "behind the building" (World War II barracks) and then you would find three to four drill sergeants waiting for you and you were made to crawl through crab grass, which would cut your skin and stick to your clothing. I remember the overweight guys being starved and us skinny guys made to eat more. We were rushing at each meal to eat in less than eight minutes from the time we got our trays. If you messed up while marching you would have your weapon held high and made to run circles around the platoon or the entire formation. I remember being dropped for push-ups more than I could count. What what I remember most are these men (drill instructors) that changed my life, gave me discipline, made me strong and turned me into a soldier that was prepared for any challenge the Army could throw at me as I rose through the ranks, becoming a drill instructor at Fort Jackson, S.C., from 1983 to 1986. I trained recruits that were as scared as I once was when I first entered the United States Army.

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